If the risk of wildfire is to be effectively managed, a good understanding of the combined effects of lightning caused and aboriginal fire on pre-European forest structure and species composition is needed….
It has been said “those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” This observation is relevant to fire management, as it has become increasingly dependent on public and political opinions, driven by campaign slogans, rather than science.
Activists argue that if you don’t burn the forests, they will become moister and not burn. Wherever this philosophy, rather than active fuel management has been applied, the forests and associated wildlife have been the losers.


With Warmer, Drier Climate, Why are Governments, Fire Management Agencies and Public Land Managers Choosing to Do Less to Manage Forest Fuels?
A consistent theme in the House of Representatives report on the 2002-03 bushfires A Nation Charred, was evidence from many parts of Australia that the declining level of fuel reduction burning was a major contributor to the devastation of almost four million hectares of forest across southern Australia. The report also highlighted that fuel reduction burning was made more expensive and difficult due to changed legislative and regulatory requirements, relating to environmental requirements.
Declining Levels of Fuel Management in Forests
Historical Context
In a paper to the 1890 Royal Society of Victoria Meeting, Alfred Howitt summarises the impact of the loss of aboriginal burning on the forests of Gippsland. Much of these forests have similar eucalypt species to the forests of south east NSW.

Influence of Settlement on the Eucalyptus Forests of Gippsland.

Howitt – Influence of Settlement on the Eucalyptus Forests 1890

To Burn or Not to Burn is Not the Question

On 17 September 2016, a fund raising event for the CFA and an information day for Mallacoota residents was held at Double Creek near Mallacoota. A number of thought provoking presentations were delivered during the day, with further discussion in the evening. While many politicians and forest activists seem to ignore the ever growing risk of catastrophic wildfire to forest dependent biodiversity, experts in the field of fire management offer an alternative solution to the “blame it on climate change” academics. The following presentation by historical ecologist, Vic Jurskis was one of the ten made on the day and brings historical insights that will help guide better fire management in the future.
To Burn or Not to Burn is Not the Question
At the same event, John Mulligan, who was 8 years old when the 1939 fires occurred, shared his experiences of fire management and views on how proper forest fuel management can help minimise the risk of large wildfires.
Fire in East Gippsland by John Mulligan


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